Category Archives: Religion

The More Frightening Cosmology

Last month at the terrific Horrible Imaginings Film Festival at least one film dealt with the familiar subject of a the bad person suffering in limbo or hell but unaware that this was indeed their fate. This is a well known plot done in prose, poem and on the both the big and small screen. For me this presentation prompted a thought about how utterly this is a comforting concept.

If there is a hell or some analog for those who do wanton harm to their fellow humans then there is a moral order to the universe. The existence of such a place means that there is no escape for those who would do evils upon the rest of us. Justice is not a lie we tell ourselves to make life bearable.

However the concept brings with it terrifying prospects. For there to be justice there must also be judgment and that implies not only a judge but also a code to be judged against. Many religions assert that they have unlocked the mystery of the code and the judge but by their very natures the answer must be taken on faith. There can be no proof of their claims, and it is possible no matter how pious your life that your actions violate the code and then hell is not just for those who are clearly evil but those for are mere violators of an unknown code.

So given that which is the more frightening cosmology; one with an alien judge and unknown moral code that may punish people for ceremonial infractions or one in which none of that exists leaving us in a universe without morality or meaning?

I am seriously thinking of tackling these questions in a serious of fantasy/horror stories.

Share

It is not a Distraction

Yesterday President Trump tweeted about banning transgendered persons from the U.S. Military and a number of people declared that the tweets were meant as a distraction, either from the Senate attempting to repeal the ACA or from the Russian election interference investigation. I am not persuaded. Chiefly I don’t agree because it would require a level of coordination and competence that this administration had not displayed but also because it doesn’t fit with what I believe is going on inside this very dysfunctional White House.

In my opinion there are thee factions vying for access, influence, and attention from our man-baby narcissistic president. When you see the president making statements or signing executive orders it can usually be seen as a victory by one of these factions. Understand the factions and you understand who is winning at the moment. Here are the factions presented in no particular order.

GOP Establishment: Centered around Chief of Staff Reince Priebus this faction represents the core Republican Party, you can be assured it’s looking to undo what the Obama Administration had done, cut taxes, and defer to big business in many matters. The recent hiring of a new communications director outside of the traditional GOP personnel along with spokesperson’s Spicer resignations might indicate that this faction is losing influence.

Family Interests: Centered around Ivanka Trump, Jarad Kushner and the president’s other adult children this faction is all about what is good, personally and financially for the Trumps. Their aim appears the be to make the post of president yields as much money as possible for their various enterprises and leverage its prestige to expand their financial dealings. Currently this faction is at the heart of the Russian scandal and appears to be having serious difficulties.

Alt-Right/Ethno-Nationalist: Centered around Steve Bannon this faction represents , in opinion, the most dangerous elements within the Trump administration. This faction is concerned with ‘a clash of civilization’, ‘The West’ versus other cultures, and a near maniacal reverence for a historical version of white western culture that never truly existed. Hostile to diversity, equality, and the modern nation/state they appear to be more interested in tearing down than creation.

(The Legislative Branch has its own factions and they have their own goals and motivations. Perhaps I’ll cover them in another post someday.)

Yesterdays announcement may have come from Trump’s phone but it reeks of Bannon and the alt-right. Of the three factions they are the most focused on traditional masculine and feminine roles. (I think that Vice-President Pence and his social evangelicals have only minimal influence in this administrations and his presence was the work of the GOP establishment.) The wide-scope of the immigration bans is also the work of the Bannon Faction, this latest ban, an attempt to turn back the clock on rights and enforce traditional gender roles, is precisely the sort of thing that motivates the alt-right. It’s not coordination it is that we have several factions in and outside of the administration trying to do all sorts of things and we need to fight several fronts at once.

Share

S.M.E.s and Cultural Conservative Hysteria

At my day job we have people whom we refer to as S.M.E.s for Subject Matter Experts. When you have a tricky question about an arcane rule or regulation these people are generally the ones with the answer you need. (Never would I have I thought that playing StarFleet Battles would be good job training, but it make this particular day job so much easier to learn.)

Writers often consult SMEs for their works. Need to know how a morgue handles dead bodies for your zombie story, go ask them? Need some legal double speak to dazzle the characters, consult with a lawyer. The same for sciences, the military, and uncountable other areas. No one can be an expert in all things that’s why writers dedicate their books to those who helped illuminate the way while taking the blame for the errors.

All this should sound pretty dull, but the whole thing explodes the moment you venture in cultural issues.

Recently conservative columnist Rod Dreher posted an article on-line decrying the use of sensitivity readers. In reality sensitivity readers are simply SME for under-represented groups. If I am writing a story about an physicist not only should I consult with a physicist about the science but a person of the Islamic faith to make sure I get both parts rght. This goes for all sorts of people because in reality we humans come in a blinding and beautiful array of styles, colors, and cultures.

Mr. Dreher seems to think that this is surrendering creative control. That this is ‘pc’ run amok. That is utter bull.

I know a number of writers. They cover a vast swath of political and cultural attitudes and I can’t think of a single one that would surrender control of their manuscript. Yes we seek input and opinion, particularly when we are writing outside of our direct experience, but we also hold the final cut. No beta reader, SME, or sensitivity reader controls the words on the page.

In my opinion Mr. Dreher has always been one of the more hysterical voices when it comes to religious and sexual issues. It seems he holds an idealized and utterly realistic vision of what American and humanity has been in the past and longs for a return to that comfortable, for him and his people, fantasy

Well, I am not here to make people comfortable …

Share

Thoughts on Death

Nothing terribly deep or novel here, just a few meanderings on me and my relationship with that terminal dirt nap.

All of my life thoughts of death and mortality occasionally surfaced into my forebrain. Of course, there are the usual childhood incidents, such as when your puppy dies, that can provoke contemplation, but there have also been other instigating factors. I am not talking about the passing of my father when I was a child; though that naturally impacted my thoughts and mental balance considerably.

Even before that, I can remember thinking about death and thinking specifically about my own demise. Strange and unusual thoughts for a child.

One example can be recounted in a simple prayer I was taught.

Now I lay be down to sleep

I pray the lord my soul to keep.

Should I die before I wake

I pray the lord my soul to take.

My parents raised me as a Southern Baptist. (Time has shown that it did not take and I am a religious non-believer now who thinks that all religions look equally silly from the outside.) Reciting that simple rhyme at night sometimes sparked my imagination.

Could I die before I wake? Did that sort of thing really happen? Where people just go to bed and for no reason never wake up? I can remember clearly have nights where I feared going to sleep because it was possible I would never wake up.

It had to be possible, it was right there in what I was saying.

Did the prayer start the thoughts or did I have an innate fascination with the end of life?

I can’t say. The details are lost to me in the far reaches of hazy and untrustworthy memory.  Nature or Nurture I will never know but still, to the day, I don’t react the same way as most people when I hear of a death.

Share

Of Pyramids, Granaries, and Creationism

Of late quite a bit of political talk has been about the beliefs of Dr. Ben Carson, a political neophyte and a leading candidate for the Republican nomination for POTUS. He’s stated unconventional and factually wrong positions such as that the Egyptian pyramids were built by the biblical Joseph to store grain. This is demonstrably wrong. He is also a creationist, disallowing evolution.

Now the current contest is for President of the United States of American and not the president of the Archeological Society or curator of the Darwin estate and trust, so does it matter that he holds these opinions. After all, I have said in the past that all religion look silly when viewed from the outside and shouldn’t we be respectful and tolerate of differing religious views?

Ben Carson the private citizen is one matter, Ben Carson the President is a different one. The critical issue here, to me at least, is that these are facts and his opinions demonstrably wrong. He is entitled to hold an opinion that are wrong on the facts, but it calls into question his ability to judge a situation.

When faced with facts that challenge a previously held opinion, if this opinion id important enough to him, it appears that he rejects reality for his already conceived stance. Puttering about on his ordinary life, this matters nothing to me, but as President he must be able to abandon a previously held opinion when the facts dictate. The world is a place that moves quickly and preconceived notions are rapidly destroyed by reality. Someone unable to make that critical adjustment simply does not have the temperament for the office.

There already a host of issues where people can have honest disagreements about what is best. There are tons of things where there is simply no clear unequivocal right and wrongs answers, but the most important element of wisdom is the understanding that you may be wrong in the beliefs that you hold and courage is being able to change to fit the new reality.

Dr Carson, and many others, fail that critical test.

Share

Hypothetical Trump Stopper

Trumps commanding rise in the Republican Primary is a black swan event. An unpredictable occurrence. When he first announced many people assumed, and I am included in that set, that he would flare and die as more serious candidates took the lead. The silly summer stretched on and Trump’s lead in the polls only grew.

No, I do not think he will be the nominee. TGhe party will rage and eventually kill his chances, but if they do that without gutting his support who knows what backlash his supporters may unleash? To safely remove Trump from the race he has to crater in the polls, but what might prompt that?

Not policy. He’s already all over the map with positions taken that would have killed any other candidate. His supporters simply don’t care.

Personality? Not likely, he is and remains who his public persona has always been, an arrogant, insulting, loud mouth, braggart and with each insult his numbers climb.

Attacks from the establishment? Hell, his supporters love him because he’s giving to the establishment. Every time the elders try to take him to task they strength him like Godzilla feeding at a nuclear reactor.

All the typical tool appear useless. I do think I have one way, but only Trump can do it.

Go watch a movie call ‘A Face in the Crowd.’ The character lonesome Rhodes suffers his downfall — spoilers — when an open mike lets his followers know exactly what he thinks of them.  Mitt Romney was hurt in the general election with his famous 47% comment, Trump supports would eat that up and ask for more, but if Trump were to be caught talking about the idiot and losers who listen to him and how he uses them, then he’d be toast.

But, I don’t know if he feels that way, or is in anyway likely to spout such sentiments.

Without that? I have no idea where you’ll find an oxygen destroyer that works on Trump.

Share

The Delicate Deception of Word Choice

There has been a lot of stories in the media lately concerning marriage equality and businesses that assert the right to withholding services to participants of same-sex weddings. In almost every case a very sly bit of slight-of-hand is used in these stories that subtly bias the piece.

Word choice is paramount in writing, Mark Twain advised aspiring writers to always use the precise word, noting that there is a world of difference between ‘lightning and lightning bug.’ A similar but I suspect quite deliberate word substitution going on in many of these pieces. Consider the following sentence:

The baker has strong religious convictions.

That’s a clear, declarative statement that is perfectly logical. Now let’s change one word:

The bakery has strong religious convictions.

Huh? How does a bakery have religious convictions, strongly held or otherwise. A bakery is a business, a company, a baker is a person and the two are not the same.

What is going on is that the person who owns the bakery is asserting that his business has the same religious beliefs as a person does and the owner is doing it to retain the option of    discriminating who is served and under what conditions.

I assure that this concept that the baker and the bakery are one and the same is purely a marriage of convenience. Let that bakery produce a product that poisons a wedding party and you will swiftly find that the baker’s assets are separate and protected from the bakery’s assets.

 

Share

Dangerous Musings

First off let me state that I am not a Christian nor am I by far an expert in Christian Theology. I know what I heaver learned I Sunday School, and a lifetime of fascination with humanity and its religion in general. However, snark aside, I don’t see where my reasoning if wrong.
In God’s glorious and perfection heaven, this is no evil and nothing can be wrong. For those who are saved, and therefore absolved of their earthly sins, heaven is a timeless infinity in the presence of your loved one, provided that they were also saved, and God’s eternal, merciful, and loving spirit,
Love is God’s greatest gift, and it is not only expected but required that we love one another, but the love of spouse is an elevated love, it is a love created by the special bonds that ties you to another person for life. It is expressed by a commitment to that person, and that person alone, forsaking all others. In the traditional Christian view, marriage is a lifetime vow, broken only by death.
Death does however break it, and those who have tragically lost their spouse are not excluded from the matrimonial love, but are allowed to marry again, recommitting their vows ‘until death do them part.’ The dangers of childbirth, no greatly reduced by modern medicine and clean hands, robbed many a family of their mother and many a man of his wife, creating the need for the second wife, the step-mother.
In heaven you are reunited with your loved who preceded you into God’s graces. That means you must be reunited with your previous spouses, whom you did love unto death, and you will be joined by the spouses you left behind when you passed away. In heaven many will live forever in perfect harmonious polyamarous relationships. What is good in heaven cannot be evil on earth. Evil and wrongness have no place in God’s grace, therefore poly relationships built upon love and respect can only mirror God’s will for the afterlife of the just and cannot be considered immoral , unnatural, or sinful, but only a proper expression of his divine plan on earth as it is in heaven.
For the record I am not poly either, but the logic still seems watertight to me.

Share

Quick Impressions from the vice-presidential debate

I think that this was the first time I have watched, front to back, an entire vice-presidential debate. This has proved to be a volatile election and in this environment the side-show has the possibility of effecting the center ring action.

My quick impression is that Biden won the debate, he kept Ryan on the defensive most of the night, though this was by no means a blow-out like the first presidential debate. It was also close enough that partisan from either side will claim  victory.

One – of many- exchanges that caught my attention was Ryan on abortion. I am pro-choice, I do not agree with the concept that conception is the point at which we should be legally bound to recognize full human rights. Ryan’s answer though went beyond simply the mine field of abortion and into the nature of religious thought and its place in government. It goes too far into mixing the two.

RYAN: I don’t see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or from their faith. Our faith informs us in everything we do. My faith informs me about how to take care of the vulnerable, of how to make sure that people have a chance in life.

 

Share